Belgium to announce major defence investments

VRT understands the Belgian government has decided to invest an extra 14 billion euros in defence over the next eight years.  A big increase in troop numbers is envisaged.  In addition to the F-35 fighter jets, armoured vehicles and new frigates planned extra cash will be spent on drones, cyber defence, and helicopters.  Belgium will also join a European programme to develop a new tank.

VRT understands government parties have agreed a deal that will receive the formal backing of cabinet tomorrow.  After years of defence cuts this is a major sea change in defence investment strategy.

The Belgian defence budget will rise from 1.3% of GDP to 1.54%, which is still below NATO’s 2% target.

Numbers in the armed forces will rise from 25,000 now to 29,000 and include a 3,000-man combat group. The military intelligence service ADIV and satellite capacity will be among the sectors to benefit from increased spending.   

The army is set to receive five and not two drones or unmanned aircraft that can be armed.  Belgium will also purchase Cesar artillery as well as short- and long-range missile systems. The decision to take part in the new European tank project opens the way for Belgium to purchase tanks, a defence capability it no longer possesses.

Investments are also being made in Special Forces that will get more staff but also amphibian vehicles and light aircraft.

The air force is getting 15 light helicopters as well as up to 5 large transport helicopters.  The navy will be equipped to lay smart mines.

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